The story begins with the author, Teresa Neumann, flying to Italy with her husband for a reunion with his family. They meet Bianca Corrotti, now eighty-eight years old, who will relate to them the family history, of her grandparents, Luigi and Carmela Bertozzi, their sons Francesco, Egisto, and Alberto, daughter Carilda, and their grandchildren. She will tell their story partly from fear the Americans may think less of their Italian family when they learn the family secrets, so she resolves to tell it from the beginning, so they will know “what it was like here during the war, how everything changed forever.“ Bianca is a happy choice as the narrator. Grandfather Luigi always said she was “good at explaining things, at untangling the knots in people’s lives,” and her mother Carilda had said that Bianca “always could see what others can’t.”
Much of the story is about her uncle Egisto. As the second son, Egisto was sent to America, where he would earn his living as a sculptor in marble and help support the family that remained behind in Italy. It is also the story of Egisto’s wife, Armida Sigali, not Egisto’s first love, who married him on impulse as he was leaving for America, later leaving Egisto and their children and returning to Italy, estranging herself from her former in-laws as she became ensnared in the Fascist dictatorship. Even so, she would eventually risk her own life to save Bianca’s husband. It is also a story of how the privations of war led to breaks with tradition, as when Luigi, almost literally with his dying breath, ignored inheritance laws that favored sons over daughters, and gave his vineyard to daughter Carilda.
Teresa Neumann has a syntactical versatility that pulls the reader into and through the story at a good pace. When you reach the end, you will have read a story of redemption and reconciliation that any family could be proud to tell.
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